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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

August 25, 1996|MICHAEL HARRIS

HIDING MY CANDY by the Lady Chablis, with Theodore Bouloukos (Pocket Books: $22, 208 pp.). For six years, when Benjamin Edward Knox was growing up in a small town in Florida, his mother and stepfather regularly whipped him with switches, tied him to the porch and let insects feast on his bloody wounds. This was supposed to cure him of "sissiness," or what he preferred to call his "fem'ninity." It failed. Knox grew up to become the Lady Chablis, the black drag queen and entertainer profiled in John Berendt's 1994 bestseller about the mysteries of Savannah, Ga., "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." In this autobiography, padded with photos, recipes, makeup tips and a glossary of slang terms, Chablis frankly aims to cash in on her moment of fame.

"Like most people who take extraordinary measures to re-create themselves . . . Chablis is confident and self-assured," Berendt says in the introduction. Indeed, Chablis, a preoperative transsexual with hormone-enhanced breasts, asserts on stage without blinking her mascaraed eyelashes that she is a "heterosexual white woman" who happens to be deeply tanned. Does an image upheld 24 hours a day leave anything underneath? This account--half in Chablis' sassy dialect, half in co-author Theodore Bouloukos' almost comically sober prose--is more introspective than we might expect. Chablis' story is brave as well as outrageous. "If y'think being gay is tough, try being a transie!" she says. And, yes, the "candy" of the title is just what you think it is.

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